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For a short period of time on Thursday, the founder and CEO of Amazon was the richest man on the plant, with a fortune estimated to be at over $90 billion according to both Forbes and Bloomberg. This placed him above the founder of Microsoft Bill Gates who has a fortune of $89 billion. Whilst this was short lived thanks to a jump in Amazon’s share price, it is thought that he will take the permanent title of the world’s richest person in the coming weeks or months as Amazon, the ecommerce giant gets bigger and better.

Perhaps the most astounding thing about his wealth is the recent surge in it. Bezos has been a billionaire for nearly 20 years, first making the Forbes list in 1998 with a fortune of $1.6 billion. For the next few years his wealth grew gradually to $18.4 billion in 2012 but in the last two years, as Amazon’s stock has soared, so has Bezos’s wealth. His net worth has grown by $70 billion over the past five years, surging by $45 billion in the last two years alone — possibly the largest wealth-creation surge in history. His story is an inspirational one, having the idea of selling books in the internet whilst working at a prestigious New York hedge fund. Torn between starting Amazon and his high paying job, he chose the riskier option which has paid dividends.

Criticisms Of Bezos

However, Bezos has not been without his critics. Despite the fact that he is well known for giving away bananas to approximately 4500 people a day in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle and giving millions to good causes, he has been criticized for not doing enough. Unlike Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Guttenberg, he doesn’t splash out for non-profits on a big scale and neither has he yet joined the list of 169 wealthy people who have pledged to give away half of their personal fortunes. However, this may look to be changing according to a recent tweet from Bezos.

“This tweet is a request for ideas. I’m thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time – working on the long term. For philanthropy, I find I’m drawn to the other end of the spectrum: the right now. As one example, I’m very inspired by the work done at Mary’s Place here in Seattle. I like long-term – it’s a huge lever: Blue Origin, Amazon, Washington Post – all of these are contributing to society and civilization in their own ways. But I’m thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now – short term – at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact. If you have ideas, just reply to this tweet with the idea (and if you think this approach is wrong, would love to hear that too. Thanks!”

With Amazon continually growing and becoming more and more successful, no doubt both Bezos’s wealth and philanthropy will grow.


Scott Bretton

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